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PNG minister: Rebate scheme will boost local tuna processing, foreign fishing firms not happy

The rebate scheme introduced earlier this year by the Papua New Guinea (PNG) government, encouraging companies to land catches in the country, will improve the difficult situation for local canneries, Patrick Basa, the country’s minister of fisheries and marine resources, told Undercurrent News on the sidelines of the Tuna 2018 conference.

The rebate scheme was introduced to encourage domestic processing, Basa told Undercurrent, increasing employment in the sector. According to the agreement, companies fishing in PNG waters should land 10% of their catches in the country, but this isn't really happening at present, Basa said. 

The rebate scheme introduced earlier this year is having a good impact on processing plants in the country, Basa said, adding that the government was planning to expand the rebate scheme with a new measure.

Processing companies are happy, but foreign fishing companies are not, Basa said.

Filipino tuna company Frabelle -- and its joint venture with Thai Union Group, Majestic Seafood -- are on the verge of closing their plants on PNG, Frabelle president Francisco Tiu Laurel previously told Undercurrent.

They are laying off workers because there is insufficient fish, Basa said, adding incentives for fishing boats to land fish in PNG should help to increase production in the country this year.

PNG is one of the eight countries that make up the Parties to the Nauru Agreement (PNA), which accounted for 60% of skipjack tuna catches in Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in 2017, or up to 50% of the world’s skipjack tuna catch, Basa said.

PNG caught 379,317 metric tons of tuna in 2017, Kiribati 226,742t, Federated States of Micronesia 168,810t and Solomon Islands 149,614t, Basa said, quoting figures from the WCPFC. 

However, the PNA countries are small players when it comes to processing, with Thailand and Ecuador dominating.

“Any discussion on tuna trade and markets should also take into account where the tuna are caught,” Basa said, after pointing out that Thailand was the world’s large tuna exporter.

“It is indeed much clearer when we consider the complete picture from where the fish is caught to where it is processed and to where it is exported to the end market,” he said. “This is part of traceability, an essential requirement for access into markets and in the fight against illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing,” he added.

In 2017, Thailand exported a total of 485,500t of tuna, while Ecuador exported a total of 218,100t, according to figures quoted by Basa.

Spain, China, the Philippines and Indonesia were also among the largest exporters, with 101,600t, 91,1000t, 79,500t and 76,700t, respectively, exported during the year.

Exports from the Philippines increased 24% year-on-year during 2017, while Ecuadorean shipments rose 20.7%, Basa said. 

The European Union was the largest importing market during the year. The EU imported a total of 725,300t during the year, followed by the US, with 197,200t, Japan, with 62,900t, Australia, with 45,600t, Egypt, with 32,200t and Canada with 31,500t. 

Last year, overall tuna imports into the EU rose 10% y-o-y, while shipments into Egypt fell 61.1percent.


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